What Is Precis and Step-by-Step Guide How to Write It

What Is Precis and Step-by-Step Guide How to Write It

How to Write a Precis: Format, Outline, Examples

Okay, it happened again. You’re sitting on the front of your device and trying to understand why you have to perform tons of paper assignments. But it’s better to stop running bad thoughts in your head and go to your piece of work. 

The Internet is full of materials and different guides; most of them are too small and don’t give you irrefragable information. Our article is the best for you because you can find all the information you need on one website. So it doesn’t matter if your precis is ready or if you don't even know ‘How do you write a precis?’ This is because you’ll get a full guide that enables you to become a pro in summary writing. So let’s start diving into the precis writing! Sit back as our conversation will last a long time. 

What Is a Precis

A precis is a summary of a scientific article, new bestseller book, or speech, or another type of text. As for academic papers, you probably know this word as an abstract. 

After reading a precis, your readers must understand what the text you summarize is. And such a piece of work has to be enough for your readers to decide whether it is worth reading a text or not. This section of the text enables you to pay readers’ attention to your work when it comes to academic papers. For example, if your abstract doesn’t contain the purpose of your term, you can be sure that your potential readers move to another piece of work. 

You can start working on your paper without diving into what is a précis, but don’t forget that if you know what you do and why you do it, the process takes less time, doesn't it?

What Is the Length of It

There isn’t a certain answer to this question. It can vary from 100 words to one-fifth or one-sixth part of your paper. Therefore, your task is to clarify this question with your professor. Don’t rely on the Internet because each institution has its own rules! 

What Is the Difference Between Summary and Precis

Summary and precis have similar meanings, but they are not the same. So don’t forget their differences!

Summary Precis
You just list the main points of a text You list the main points of a text and analyze them
You don’t express your opinion You express your opinion in the last sentences
It’s usually brief It can take a one-sixth part of the work
It tells readers about the work in general outline It tells readers about all details of the text

But keep in mind that sometimes people use summary and precis as synonyms, and it doesn’t mean that they make mistakes. According to this fact, we also use such two words as synonyms. Also, we call precis as brief. 

How to Do a Precis Outline

Some students get without outlining because when collecting information, their brain structures all data and ties it up in the whole text. All that such students need to do is write a brief and then check their piece of work for spelling and logical mistakes. 

So let’s make an outline together:

Introduction Listing the information about the text and writing a thesis statement
Body Listing the main ideas of the text
Conclusion Analyzing the key points and their evidence

How to Write a Precis Step by Step

Here is a step-by-step guide. Follow it, and you’ll cope with this difficult paper assignment. Then, turn again to certain steps if you need to do it. 

1. Read the Text Multiple Times if It’s Possible

To make a brief of a book or an article, your commitment is to know all the ins and outs of this work. Of course, it’s a crazy thing to reread a 400-page book multiple times; yes, if you know what speed reading is, you can apply this skill. But if not, don’t worry. Just remember what a book is about. Spend time skimming through the book.

If you remember almost all the information about the work, it’s time to move to another step. 

2. Make Clear Difficult Phrases and Words

If you don’t know the meaning of some words or phrases, it's time to make them clear. It’s a bad idea to skip this step because, in the text, every word is important. For example, maybe one word in the novel is the key to the main theme of the literary writing; or some difficult word can be repeated again and again in the scientific article, and without knowing this word definition, you can’t understand the purpose of this article and its sense in particular.

You can write down unclear expressions on your vocabulary or type them in Word or Google Docs files. Do as you want. You can deal without it if you have a good memory, but it’s good to have such expressions in front of your eyes because it makes the process of memorizing easier. 

3. Realize the Purpose of the Work

You can think that this step is useful only for students who write a term paper. No! After remembering all information in the piece of work, you should realize what the author’s main goal was.

Keep in mind that if you don’t know the purpose of the work, you’ll hardly write a strong summary. This is because we’re living in the high-tech era, and people want to know if some content is useful for them or not. If not, they skip it and move to another. Yes, this model works not only on social media. Agree that you won’t read a term where research is underway… simply so! If a term doesn’t help science make progress, there is a sense to forget about such research. 

To understand the purpose of the work, ask yourself a question: ‘What is this text written for?’ Then, write down your answer or type in Word or Google Docs. Also, there is a creative way to organize your thoughts: to make a mindmap. In this case, things go in the same way: use a paper with a pen or a specialized web service, or a desktop program. 

4. Emphasize or Write Down the Main Points

The next step on how to write a precis paper is to drive home the main ideas of the text. It’s good to annotate your text or make notes while reading. But don't panic if you don't have any notes and annotations! Just turn to the first and the second step and write down the key points. 

5. Check What Evidence Does Author Use

As you know, all thoughts have to be based on something. So then, now your task is to look at the main ideas and find a piece of text that the author uses to prove his or her thought. 

Keep in mind that every statement in research is based on other researches or statistics. If we talk about a book, the main proof of the authors’ thoughts is actions. For example, the main evidence that good triumphs over evil is that positive characters traditionally win negative heroes. 

6. Identify a Call to Actions

Every useful piece of work contains a call to action. It means that a text motivates its readers to act in any particular way. So, for example, after reading Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, you realize that you should be more positive and relish small things. 

If you write about EDGY Conversations by Dan Waldschmidt, which was a bestseller some years ago, it’s good to realize that the author motivates us just to do something and don’t give up for better or for worse. 

7. Catch On the Method of Showing Key Points

The next step of performing your paper assignment is to understand how the author reveals the main ideas of his or her work. Okay, such a statement is too abstract, you say. Yes, it is; hence, let’s see some follow-up questions that will help you, especially if you’re all about how to write a precis at a high level to stand your piece of work from each other:

  1. Did the author use statistics or research facts?
  2. What literary figures did the author use when evidencing the key points?
  3. What examples did the author give readers to prove the key points?

Turn to such questions if you’re struggling with finding methods of revealing the main ideas. 

For instance, the author showed key points in the novel by using symbols and literary figures. Your task is to say briefly what such symbols and figures are. 

8. Format Your Work

Hooray! You’ve finished the main part of our work — collecting information. Now you have to analyze it and sum it up in your summary. Let’s see the precis sample format.

Maybe you’ll be surprised, but a brief has its own structure, even if it doesn’t divide into paragraphs. In this case, multiple sentences act as a single section of your piece of work.

If your task is to consider MLA format precis, your format will be the same. There are only two differences:

  1. You should cite works and mention their names and authors.
  2. All cited works should be in your work-cited list.

As you see, such differences aren’t crucial. Then, let’s dive into the structure of such a piece of work.


This part should consist of the following information:

  • the title of the work; 
  • the name of the author; 
  • publishing date;
  • thesis statement of the work.

It’s clear what the thesis statement is for a research paper. But what should you write when it comes to a novel? In this case, your task is to write the main theme of literary writing. Therefore, it will act as a thesis statement. 

Precis Body

Be attentive and follow the rule one paragraph = one section or key point of the text. 

Here your task is to write:

  1. The main authors’ thoughts of the text.
  2. How the author evidences them.
  3. What is the purpose of the work is.

Keep in mind that you can’t give readers your own opinion in this part of a summary — you can turn only to a statement of facts. 

Precis Conclusion

Anyway, the good news is that you can express your own opinion, and the best section for it is the conclusion of your precis. Here, your task is to analyze all the main points and evidence and size them up. 

Tips for Make Your Precis Better

If you’re wondering how to do a precis to surprise professors and other people who’ll read your piece of work, the best bet for you is to follow some tips that will make your summary better.

Check Your Grammar and Spelling with Specializing Programs

Don’t rely only on yourself fully because people can miss some mistakes while reading, especially if you write your paper at night and are in a hurry. The best solution for this situation is to turn to specialized online writing tools for students

There are many services that will help you check your paper for grammar and spelling mistakes. They’re available on the browser — you should just open a new tab and find the appropriate service. They suit any browser:

  • Google Chrome;
  • Safari;
  • Mozilla Firefox;
  • Microsoft Edge, the list goes on.

Or there is another way to use such checkers: install the program on your PC or a laptop. Some software is available only for Windows; people can set up some of them on both Windows and macOS. It’s quite difficult to use such programs on Linux distributions, but it’s possible.

The most popular checker is Grammarly. But you can use any service that appeals to you most. 

Also, such checkers are divided into paid and free or can combine both versions like Grammarly. It means that in the free version, you get the opportunity to check the most crucial mistakes in your writing:

  • punctuation;
  • spelling;
  • misplaced words;
  • spacing mistakes, etc.

Paid versions enable you to work with a style. For example, you can correct the tone of your writing and word choice. So use versions that suit you most. 

But remember that no machine can replace you, a real human. So rely on programs but be attentive. 

Connect All Sentences with Original Text

Avoid writing in summary information that readers won’t find in the original text. This is because your piece of work should make professors familiar with your paper. 

Therefore, make sure that information in sentences doesn’t contradict some statements in the original text. 

Give Your Piece of Work for Your Classmate

Even if you’re good at writing, it isn’t a bad way to ask your classmate to read your brief, especially when he or she has read the original piece of work. This is because if you have been focusing on one assignment for a long time, you can’t evaluate it correctly as your head is full of thoughts about such an assignment. And other people will look at your paper with a fresh glance and find logical mistakes. Likewise, you can exchange papers with your buddy and check each other. 

Read Other People’s Summaries

If you’re a fan of reading professional literature, you’ve probably read a lot of briefs. It’s good that you have a lot of samples in your head. If you haven’t read any summary yet, you can visit the Internet libraries and find some samples. 

The Bottom Line on How to Write a Precis

Don’t forget about your experience! The more you write, the more experienced you become in how to write a precis. Okay, if you hate writing, the best bet for you is to write all the assignments you receive at college. But if writing is your cup of tea, it’s a good idea to help do homework for your classmates. Maybe they want to delegate such an assignment? Then, you’ll kill two birds with one stone: you’ll rise a step higher in mastering summary writing, and your classmates will get rid of stressful assignments and can spend their time exploring subjects they’re interested in.